Raising a Puppy while Social Distancing

In many ways this can be the ideal time to add a puppy to your family.

If you aren’t an “essential worker”, you’re probably spending nearly all your time at home. That can certainly be a big advantage when you are house training and bonding with your pup. Also, if there were ever a time that we could all benefit from the companionship and unconditional love offered by a pet, this is it!.
However, there are some significant potential drawbacks to be aware of. The drawbacks fall into the areas of the pup’s socialization and his learning to spend time alone. But, I believe if you’re proactive, and take the necessary steps to mitigate these issues, your pup will grow up to be a confident dog who is a great companion for you and your family. If you take the right steps, the pros of adopting now will outweigh the cons.
The key drawback is in puppy socialization. Socialization is incredibly important for puppies. If they don’t get adequate socialization when they are young, many pups will develop into dogs with serious fear issues, including leash reactivity and fear aggression. These are issues which  are difficult to improve in adulthood. Many of the typical ways of socializing your pup are not available to you now. Going to a well-run group puppy class is usually a very important part of a good socialization strategy. Also, visiting with friends, having people come into your home and taking your pup to public places are great ways to have your pup learn that strange people are a normal and pleasant part of life. All of those strategies are taken away or dramatically changed with social distancing. I’ll give you a few new strategies for accomplishing your socialization goals in a time of social distancing requirements.
Passive socialization is key!  This is the type of socialization where your puppy sees the strange people, places, dogs and noises, but does not interact directly with them. Even during normal times, I highly recommend emphasizing passive socialization in your puppy raising strategy. An important part of good socialization is being sure to never scare the puppy. A scare during this time can create deep seated fears which last for your dog’s lifetime. With passive socialization, the risk of scaring the pup is much less. Accomplish this by letting your pup see people walking their dogs, or taking him out with you when your run errands. Drive him to see things he might not otherwise encounter in your neighborhood, maybe a construction site, a pasture with livestock or a busy parking lot.
Novelty is the name of the game. A big piece of socialization is the pup learning that new things aren’t scary. You can teach this important lesson by creating fun novelty in your house and yard. You can make a fun, easy obstacle course that exposes your pup to different objects and surfaces. Have family members do a “parade of novelty” walking by wearing hats, costumes, boots, surgical masks, etc. Other pets could wear costumes or scarves.
Alone time is A-okay. With many families staying home 24×7, the scene is set for a lot of puppies to grow into dogs with debilitating separation issues. Separation anxiety is one of the most difficult canine behavior issues to treat. It’s also one of the most heartbreaking. The dogs that suffer from this condition are truly miserable anytime they are apart from their people. Which during normal times, is usually a big part of most dogs’ lives. You can ensure that your pup learns that being alone is safe and okay by making sure that he spends at least a portion of everyday alone. This should be done both by having him in a room by himself (safely in a crate) and by having the family leave the house without him. The time alone can initially be very short, but increase gradually over time. The best way to introduce alone time is to leave for just a minute or two and return very calmly. Don’t make a fuss when you return, just go about your business. You’d like your pup to learn that his people will come and go, and that it’s no big deal.
Start training now. Early training is the ideal way to help your pup learn how to be the companion you’ve always dreamed of. Pups are little sponges ready to absorb whatever you want to teach. Because group classes are cancelled and private trainers can’t even come to your home, you may be tempted to put off your pup’s training until the social distancing restrictions are lifted. But, starting your training now, while your pup is young,  is absolutely the most effective strategy. At Great Dog Online, we offer high quality, interactive online training, both as group classes and private sessions. Additionally, our Puppy Seminar will give you all the pro tips and tricks needed to maximize your pup’s potential. Join us and see what a great dog you have!